Grammy-nominated electronic duo SOFI TUKKER, made up of Sophie Hawley-Weld and Tucker Halpern, have made the most of the pandemic. While the last couple of years stopped many artists in their tracks (especially artists like SOFI TUKKER, who thrive in a live environment), the pair used the change to better connect with their fans, known affectionately as the Freak Fam.
The community emerged as a result of the pair's daily livestreams, which the pair say began on the day they received news that their tour was cancelled. Sophie recalls, "I was working out and Tucker came into the living room. We had just moved into this house, and we set up the CDJ and he started DJing. Our friend who was living with us at the time started to stream on Instagram Live.
"I was huffing and puffing and Tucker was DJing. And we're just hanging out and people tuned in and liked it and we liked it. And we were like, 'Okay, we'll do this tomorrow, same time, same place, we'll see you there'. And then the next day we did it again." It became a constant in their lives, as well as the lives of their fans, with the pair marvelling at the community that formed as a result. "The level of intimacy is so far beyond what we've ever experienced with people," they explain, with familiar faces now present at every SOFI TUKKER gig.
Their new album, WET TENNIS (an acronym that stands for "When Everyone Tries To Evolve, Nothing Negative Is Safe), is a celebration of the things that make the human experience a positive one. Tucker connects the streamed performances and the message of the album, revealing, "It was a saving grace for us. It was mentally so good to have something to be excited about and to build. It's really the idea of when everyone tries to evolve, nothing negative is safe.
"We evolved, and we built something in a new way because there was a block on the old path." Sophie adds, "It could have been a really shitty time. But I think we did actually make it into one of the most connected and really meaningful times of our career." Regular Freak Fam meetups now take place at SOFI TUKKER concerts, and the pair are now frequently seeing familiar and friendly faces at their live shows. It's a reminder of how joy can come from even the darkest times.
From the opening notes of Kakee, an energetic, joyous celebration of female pleasure (and the persimmon) that sees Sophie singing in Portuguese, it's clear that WET TENNIS isn't an album that is going to languish as a result of the circumstances in which it was made. It's a project that was written during quarantine, going through a range of iterations before the pair arrived at the final tracklist. Sophie explains, "We wrote a ton of music in quarantine, and we kept thinking that we had finished an album.
"I kept obsessing over tracklisting, and so I would either walk or rollerblade and listen to the tracklist that I thought was the final tracklist". She mentioned this first took place over a year ago, and the album continued to evolve since then. They had a particular energy that they were chasing for WET TENNIS, with Tucker explaining that it was "so important for us to make an uplifting album". Across the 12 tracks featured on WET TENNIS, it's impossible not to feel like the sun is shining just that little bit brighter by the time the closing notes of the final track, the slow-burning What A Wonderful World ring out.
The pulsating Forgive Me features Turkish producer Mahmut Orhan, with the track urging listeners to forgive themselves for the harm they've caused, as well as the harm they've caused other people. The track's cinematic orchestration draws out every ounce of emotion present in Sophie's lyrics, and is a stark contrast with the following track, Wet Tennis. The bouncy, playful track features the suggestive pre-chorus "Come play with me/It's about to get freaky/Bring your hips to life", and it's a track that'll make you grin from ear to ear. There are a lot of bedroom playlists that just got an update, so make sure you stretch before you engage in any strenuous physical activity (and ensure you have the proper equipment).
Sport is a theme that is present in a couple of aspects of the project. The metaphor of tennis represents the band's ability to hit ideas back and forth when creating new music, as well as featuring heavily in the aforementioned title track. Basketball legend Larry Bird also features as part of the album's narrative, getting name-checked on a song called Larry Bird. Having made a name for himself as a star for the Boston Celtics, Tucker (who was played basketball for Brown University before being diagnosed with Epstein-Barr virus), grew up hearing about Larry Bird's pursuits from the feature on the track. his dad.
Tucker explains that he's always wanted to make a song where he said Larry Bird when the drop hits, and while they discussed a range of vocal options for the track, before an epiphany hit. "What if it was the stories my dad would tell me when I was younger about Larry Bird?" It's gone on to become a slam dunk amongst team SOFI TUKKER, while Tucker's dad is "pretty psyched" to be immortalised on the album.
The pair will be in Australia later this year for Splendour In The Grass, and they'll also be playing sideshows in Perth, Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Sophie mentions that she's looking forward to "avocado toast", while they're excited for their first in-person Splendour experience. We let them know that they'll want to bring gumboots (Tucker reveals that he would otherwise have brought a shiny new pair of Jordans), because while Splendour has been away for a couple of years, we're tipping that the mud that is synonymous with the SITG experience will be back in full force.
Our conversation finishes with a chat about evolution, both in a musical and personal sense. The band points to their continued pursuit of mastering the art of creating irresistible melodies as one of the focuses of creating WET TENNIS, before the conversation turns to how they've grown as people while creating their second album.
The project is one that involved a lot of manifestation, with songs like Summer In New York featuring the carefree lyrics "I've got no destination and I'm sippin' on my tea/I've got all day long, just to walk down the street" - a reality that's far away from what the duo were experiencing when they wrote it, with Sophie explaining that they wrote music that involved a "little bit of just using our imagination and creating a fantasy world". The world of WET TENNIS is one that you can sink into, even for just a moment.
A lot's changed for the band since the release of 2018's Treehouse, including themselves. Sophie points to her time in therapy as being a catalyst for change, as well as an improved ability to recognise patterns about herself and catching mistakes early, rather than letting them snowball. It's a wise answer, and one that many will be able to take to heart. Tucker highlights the band's ability to no longer feel like they have to be "everywhere all the time and take every opportunity all the time". The band's focus on physical and mental health manifests itself on WET TENNIS, and they also mention how "freeing" it is to "say no". Evolution doesn't have to always be about doing more. Sometimes, it can be about having the confidence to do less.